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Elizabeth Joffrion and Natalia Fernández
ATALM September 2015 Session #111
Washington D.C.
Sovereignty, self-determination, and self-governance are primary
goals of Indigenous nations worldwide—and they take
important steps toward those goals by renewing control over
their stories, documents and artifacts. In the U.S. the last 30
years have been a remarkable period of reasserted and
reaffirmed authority over such cultural patrimony through the
creation of tribal archives, libraries and museums.
Miriam Jorgensen, Sustaining Indigenous Culture: The Structure, Activities and Needs
ofTribal Archives, ATALM 2012
How are successful collaborations between tribal and nontribal
institutions initiated, developed, and maintained?
2) How were the project goals and agreements negotiated and to what
degree were the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials used
or referenced in developing policies and procedures for partnerships
involving Indigenous cultural heritage materials?
What were the challenges or “lessons learned” across a diverse range of
collaborative projects and partnerships?
A mixed methods research design (both
qualitative and quantitative) that entailed
two phases:
1) In-Depth Online Survey
2) Interviews
1) Demographic and institutional information
2) Nature of the collaborative project (goals, partnerships, funding/institutional
3) Practices supporting relationship building and the collaborative process
4) Policies and procedures for the collaborative management of Indigenous
cultural heritage materials
5) Lessons learned and recommendations for best practice guidelines
Questions expanded on the survey by exploring:
• Origins of the project
• Methods for building trusting relationships
• Mechanisms for formalizing collaborative
• Exploration of project policies and
• Incorporation/influence of the Protocols for
Native American Archival Materials
We interviewed tribal and non tribal
representatives from a range of
organizational types
1) Demographic and Institutional Information
2) Nature of the Collaborative Projects
3) Practices Supporting Relationship Building and the Collaborative Process
4) Collaborative Management of Indigenous Cultural Heritage Materials:
Policies and Protocols
5) Lessons Learned
The types of responding institutions fell into 9 categories:
Respondents’ institutional missions represented 5 categories:
Geographic Location: Respondents were located around the United States
The Partnerships
Project Goals
Funding and Institutional
Project Leadership
Mechanisms for formalizing respondents’ collaborations took several forms:
The Protocols emerged as a critical
managing document for many of the
projects surveyed.
The data indicate that 44% of the
institutions surveyed actively use or
refer to the Protocols in their daily
work, and 38% directly used the
Protocols in the development of
project policy, procedures, and
contracts for their collaborative
The survey data indicate that most of the project participants, both tribal and nontribal,
actively sought to include Native perspectives and knowledge:
1) Get started early, be flexible, and build trust slowly.
2) Challenge your motivations and be authentic.
3) Respectful communication is fundamental. Strive to understand tribal
perspectives and express a willingness to learn from and work within tribal
4) Establish and communicate clear, realistic project goals and time-lines
while respecting cultural differences.
5) Be flexible when formalizing collaborative agreements.
6) Successful collaboration requires committed and equitable institutional
support from both partners, as well as outside funding.
● Initiating the Project
● Cultivating Relationships
● Developing Policies and Procedures
● Sustaining Project Outcomes
Initiating the Project
Institutional Support
Consult with Tribes
Involve leadership
Articulate Need
Strategic Partnerships
Clear objectives
Get Permission
Impact is greater than project goals
Cultivating Relationships
Respectful communication and inclusivity
Written Agreements
Project Coordinator with tribal history and perspective
Sensitive to difference perceptions of work and time management
Meet frequently
Equal partnerships
Reciprocal education and training
Developing Policies and Procedures
Include tribal expertise and traditional knowledge
Tribal approval for content
Identification and management of sensitive materials
Contractual agreements
Adequate Infrastructure
Sustaining Project Outcomes
Maintain and share documentation
Tribal approval for publicity
Institutional support
Maintain alliances
Publicize impact
Every society needs educated people, but the primary
responsibility of educated people is to bring wisdom
back into the community and make it available to
others so that the lives they are leading make sense.
—Vine Deloria Jr., 1997
“Collaborations between Tribal and Nontribal Organizations:
Suggested Best Practices for Sharing Expertise, Cultural
Resources, and Knowledge”
The American Archivist Vol. 78, No. 1 Spring/Summer 2015